Facebook will soon share users’ phone numbers and addresses with 3rd parties

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·National Affairs Reporter
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It's been a while since we've had an uproar over Facebook's handling of its users personal information, so we suppose the time is ripe.

So cue the online outrage: Facebook announced today in a letter to Congress that the social-media platform is moving forward with plans to give third parties access to user information, such as phone numbers and home addresses.

In a letter to Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who both expressed concerns over Facebook's plan to make such data available, company officials reiterated their now-familiar pledge to leave it up to users to decide whether they want their personal contact information to go out to app developers and outside websites. Markey has previously said that "Facebook needs to protect the personal information of its users to ensure that Facebook doesn't become Phonebook."

The company, meanwhile, sounds as though it has no plans to trim back its information-sharing ambitions.

"We have not yet decided when or in what manner we will redeploy the permission for mobile numbers and addresses," the letter states. "We are evaluating whether and how we can increase the visibility of applications' request for permission to access user contact information. We are also considering whether additional user education would be helpful."

Facebook has incited user revolts in the past by arbitrarily re-calibrating its privacy settings and then making it difficult for even the most seasoned web geeks to figure out how to reset them. And once again, anger is roiling among tech industry observers.

"Facebook is the slowly warming pot of water and we, my friends, are the frog. By the time we noticed our peeling skin, another hunk of our privacy is long gone," MSNBC tech writer Helen A.S. Popkin wrote about the latest move. "This is how Facebook rolls: Strip away a huge chunk of your privacy, cry 'Our bad!' and roll it back when users and/or privacy advocates complain. Then wait awhile, and do whatever it is Facebook planned to do anyway. Voila! Boiled frog."

Or as Facebook VP Elliot Schrage bluntly (if less colorfully) put things in the midst of a similar uproar last year: If you don't want Facebook to share your personal information, don't share your personal information with Facebook.

UPDATE: In response to this post, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes emailed us the following statement: "Despite some rumors, there's no way for other websites to access a user's address or phone number from Facebook. For people that may find this option useful in the future, we're considering ways to let them share this information (for example to use an online shopping site without always having to re-type their address). People will always be in control of what Facebook information they share with apps and websites."

(Photo: Jeff Chiu/AP)

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